Genesis Invitational: Tiger Woods' challenge falls away in California

Tanya Simon
February 15, 2020

"I was not sharp today", the reigning Masters champion said.

Tiger Woods happily would have taken a score like that.

Tiger Woods paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant during the first round of the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club, California, on Thursday.

"Just didn't hit many good shots on the back nine", said Woods, who carded a two-under 69.

If the tribute to Bryant was planned, Woods' first homage to the memory of the five-time National Basketball Association champion earlier in the day was anything but.

While the 15-time major victor trails leader Matt Kuchar by seven shots, he caught the eye with a subtle nod to the memory of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles alongside with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people last month. The American requires at least a top-seven placing to earn his crown back at the first time of asking and his 69 was far less erratic than McIlroy's opening salvo, featuring three birdies and one bogey. That was the start of a stunning four under par front nine, out in 31, before back nine struggles left him two under at the end of the day. "Never a fun way to start", Kuchar said.

Six holes later, with the weather warming up, he had 289 yards into the 17th and put a three-wood pin-high, 35 feet from the hole.

Wyndham Clark had a 68 and joined McIlroy and Varner in the group two shots behind.

"So it just shows you what temperature does", said McIlroy, who drained the eagle putt.

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Eight shots off the lead when he finished, Woods seems unlikely to get that longed-for first win at a course where he debuted as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992. Nick Taylor (73) also of Abbotsford, Corey Conners (75) of Listowel, Ont., and Roger Sloan (76) of Merritt, B.C., all missed the cut. Scott hasn't played since he won the Australian PGA Championship three days before Christmas.

"I feel that part of my game helps me stay in rounds, and putting like that gives you a little bit of momentum going to the next tee". "It's going to keep getting trickier and you're going to have to really think your way around this place".

Woods didn't have to search long to figure out his errors.

Woods noted that he had not practiced on site much this week, especially on the driving range. He also saved par from 7 feet at the 15th.

"I just hit it fat", he said. "Hopefully I can get off to a quick start like I did past year".

After two birdies on the par 5s around the turn - Nos.

Then at No. 8, where the course was flying a purple-and-gold flag as a tribute to Bryant, Woods celebrated his birdie with a flourished flick of the wrist while passing his ball back to his caddie. Woods then sank a 2-foot, 9-inch putt. "A lot of good shots on the front nine".

At least they're still playing.

Last year, he vaulted into contention with a third-round 65, and he's hoping for something similar on Saturday.

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